Indictments upon Ignorance in The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is Nick Carraway’s narrative of his experiences with Jay Gatsby, his wealthy and mysterious neighbor in West Egg, Long Island. Set in 1922, a turbulent time in American history, Nick is a veteran of World War One who moved from his native Midwest to New York City to sell bonds. This novel focuses on Nick’s intense admiration for Gatsby who befriends Nick and leads him through a strange new world. In their travels, Nick and Gatsby encounter minorities and although they deal with these “Others” in a civilized manner, they regard them with condescension. The passage that embodies their beliefs about these minorities appears after they pass underneath the eyes of T. J. Eckelberg and through the wasteland into the bizarre city where “A dead man passed us” and ends with a description of a Jew’s nose and his “tiny eyes in the half-darkness.” (Fitzgerald 68-69) This passage is not so much a statement of Fitzgerald’s racism but a portal for his indictment of racism. Through his use of diction and imagery, Fitzgerald portrays ethnic minorities as corrupt and corrupting influence; Tom Buchanan is used to represent both the old American views towards minorities and Fitzgerald’s indictment on Racism.
Nick’s description of the city after crossing the Queensborough Bridge uses Fitzgerald’s specific diction of imagery portraying minorities in a fundamentally dehumanizing way. The first image is one of death where Nick stereotypes the immigrant mourners as people with “tragic eyes and short upper lips of Southeastern Europe.” (69) The next image is a striking example of the corrupting influence of minorities. The limousine that passes Nick and Gatsby has a white chauffeur driving “three modish negroes,” whom Nick mocks as he sees the “the yolks of their eyeballs.” (69) This is the world turned upside down. It is the “negro” who should be the chauffeur for the white man. He refuses to...
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